Fresh Produce 101: Getting Started in the Fresh Produce Industry
So, you’ve got a new job in fresh produce. Congratulations, and welcome to an incredibly wonderful world, which you may have never even considered until now! Personally, when I first started working in the fresh produce industry, I thought I’d suddenly begin channeling my “inner rabbit” by transitioning to eating only cruciferous veggies and salads. While I will say that we in the industry probably do tend to eat more fresh than the average Joe, there’s so much more that newbies to the industry can expect.
Here’s our take on the changes that happen when you’re the one putting the “fresh” in “fresh produce.”
1. A Quick Breakdown of Fresh Produce Terminology (or “Jargon”)
First, while you’re bound to hear countless abbreviations, acronyms and colloquialisms as you dive deeper into the industry, here are some that we know you’ll be pondering early on:
- CPG, AKA Consumer Packaged Goods.—Granola bars, Cheetos, candy, and other shelf-stable packaged foods. Fresh produce typically won’t fall into the CPG category because overall, our packaged items still do expire, such as packaged lettuce or plant-based dips.
- Organic (If there’s one term that gets confusing from its being thrown around so often during your “pre-fresh” days, it will be this one!)—The short answer: organic produce items are exclusively those grown according to guidelines approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). For more information on what exactly entails USDA product certification, click here.
- Sustainable—Essentially, sustainability refers to the integrated system of plant and animal production practices that is monitored by the USDA. It’s also a way to keep in mind the long-term effects of farming and shipping, consumption, and food waste on the environment.
- PMA, AKA the Produce Marketing Association—This trade association hosts tradeshows twice a year (more on that later), as well as provides a wealth of support for the industry, including educational and professional development opportunities.
- United, AKA United Fresh Produce Association—Much like PMA, United hosts multiple events and leadership programs, along with a significant focus on working with government officials on relevant regulations and research.
- SEPC, AKA the Southeast Produce Council—Like PMA and United, SEPC hosts tradeshows twice a year. As the name suggests, this group focuses on serving membership in the southeastern region of the United States.
- RPC, AKA Reusable Plastic Containers—You’ve seen these all over the grocery store (even if you never knew what they called): they’re those plastic crates that often hold and display fresh produce and other perishable items.
2. Produce Industry Publications
Half the battle of getting to know this industry is doing adequate research, so get to reading about the news your cohort is paying attention to! That way, you start to develop a feel for what your peers are focused on, what issues are of current importance, and what other industry professionals are doing to develop professionally and move their brands forward.
Here are six of the fresh publications you need to pay attention to:
- ANUK - Whatever you do, do NOT pronounce this as “a-nook” on your first day. (Trust me, it’ll raise eyebrows, and not in an impressive way.) ANUK stands for “And Now U Know,” an online fresh produce news outlet that publishes three times per day.
- The Snack - ANUK’s monthly print magazine. I like to think of The Snack as the magazine of fresh produce! Not only is it filled with informative articles and advertisements, it also takes a deep dive into the industry as a whole. If you can’t get to a tradeshow, you definitely need to get a Snack subscription to keep up.
- The Packer – From its "Consumer Corner" right down to its Produce Market Guide, The Packer is a one-stop-shop for produce knowledge, and a must-read for every newbie!
- Fresh Plaza – Similar to that college friend who went on a study abroad trip and spilled all the deets, Fresh Plaza is a fresh produce marketer’s dream for finding out new facts about produce around the world. I never would have thought to search for terms like “African blueberries” or the “Global Apple Market” until I stumbled across this site.
- The Produce News – Another premier fresh produce industry newspaper! And, bonus—if you aren’t a fan of the hard copies, you can always visit the The Produce News website for a full online version of the latest edition.
- Produce Business - Not only does this magazine highlight the top 40 under 40, Produce Business also dives deep into analytics and international markets—a must-read for newbies.
(^This is going to be you with all of these resources in your back pocket.)
3. The Fresh Take on Tradeshows
New York boasts fashion week, The Crimson Tide lays claim to football season (but only for the moment, mark our words…), Los Angeles has the Oscars, and fresh produce, of course, dominates the tradeshow scene like nobody’s business (particularly PMA’s Fresh Summit). For a deep dive into the magic of a range of fresh produce events, we’ve got you covered:
- Fresh Summit 2019: WBUA (What Blew Us Away), Part I and Part II
- Tour de Fresh 2019 Recap
- Southern Innovations 2019 WBUA
- PMA Foodservice 2019 WBUA
- Organic Produce Summit 2019 WBUA
- United Fresh 2019 WBUA
- Cherry Bombe 2019
- Southern Exposure 2019 WBUA
For a full outline of the tradeshows, event and other major industry happenings, be sure to subscribe to The Core and receive our annual Produce Marketer’s Calendar, releasing in mid-December! Trust us, you can’t beat this go-to guide for all things trade—let us do the hard work to keep you informed so you can focus on strengthening your brand’s marketing.